Basil Plumley, Army veteran of 3 wars, dies at 92
Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Basil L. Plumley, left, and retired Lt. Gen. Hal Moore help lead the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam.
October 11th, 2012
10:46 AM ET

Basil Plumley, Army veteran of 3 wars, dies at 92

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Basil L. Plumley, who fought in some of the U.S. Army's bloodiest battles in three wars, died Wednesday in Columbus, Georgia. He was 92.

Plumley saw action in some of the largest battles of World War II, including the Battle of Normandy, the Battle of Salerno in Italy and Operation Market Garden.

He then fought in the Korean War, but it was his role in the Battle of Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam that brought him the most fame. The battle was chronicled in the book "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young," which was later a 2002 movie starring Mel Gibson. Sam Elliott played Plumley.

The National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning, Georgia, tweeted a picture of Elliot and Plumley in noting the veteran's death.


Plumley, along with Lt. Gen. Hal Moore, led the Army's 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment in the November 1965 battle that saw 450 U.S. forces face off against 2,000 troops from the North Vietnamese army in the first major engagement between the two armies. More than 230 U.S. troops were killed.

Plumley was at Landing Zone X-Ray, where 79 U.S. troops died.

"That was a long day. I was the second one in and next to the last to leave," Plumley was quoted as saying by The Bayonet in 2010 when he donated a large print of himself and Moore in Vietnam to the National Infantry Museum.

"Command Sgt. Maj. Plumley was a true American hero who spent much of his life placing his nation and its greatest ideals ahead of his own well-being," Maj. Gen. Anthony Ierardi, commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division in Fort Hood, Texas, said in a statement Wednesday. "He served with great valor and distinction in three wars and continued to mentor soldiers and leaders well after his retirement from active duty. The command sergeant major touched countless lives in his more than 30 years in the Army."

Plumley joined the Army on March 31, 1942, and retired on December 31, 1974.

His Army awards included the Silver Star with one oak leaf cluster and the Bronze Star with one oak leaf cluster.

At a reunion of Ia Drang veterans this year in Columbus, Plumley talked about the troops he helped lead, according to a report on the U.S. Army's website.

"That battalion was the best trained, in good physical shape and most disciplined that I've ever seen," he said. "We did real hard training at Fort Benning before we went into X-Ray. … But that battalion was made up of hard, disciplined, well-trained and well-commanded soldiers who didn't give a damn how rough their training is as long as you're fair about it. I was glad to have been a member of it."

Plumley was a larger-than-life figure, who had the respect of those on the battlefield, according to Joe Galloway, a reporter who was at Ia Drang and later wrote "We Were Soldiers" along with Moore. At the May reunion, he told of the scene when Plumley showed up at another Ia Drang vets reunion years earlier.

"It was up in the hospitality room, and everybody's had a few pops. All of a sudden, Sgt. Maj. Plumley arrives, steps in the door," Galloway said. "And I saw guys who had served a two-year draftee tour in the Army and had been out for 25 or 30 years, turn white, backs against the wall. As the sergeant major made his way into the room, they made their way along the wall and out the door. They were afraid he still had their name and number."

Plumley died of colon cancer, the Army statement said.

See local coverage from CNN affiliate WRBL-TV in Columbus

Post by:
Filed under: Military • Obituary • U.S. Army
soundoff (433 Responses)
  1. michaelq

    may we have leaders with as much honor and integrity as the best who serve

    October 11, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Tamky west

    Thank you CSM for your service to America in some of her darkest hours of need you are an Inspiration to all. All NCO's should strive to be like you. Well done and RIP.

    October 11, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. WestVirginiaPride

    CSM Plumley was born in Raleigh County, West Virginia. He was the son of a coal miner.

    October 11, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • hubert39

      I had around 12 friends like Plumley. They all joined the military to escape, or get away from the area where they lived. Coal miner in PA. Auto worker from Detroit. Slums in Chicago and NYC. Farms in Miss., SC, Ga.
      They all loved the military. Some retired after 20 years, some after 30 plus years.
      Have friends sons and daughters in the military now. Can be a great life.

      October 12, 2012 at 5:25 am | Report abuse |
  4. Tamky west

    Thank you CSM for your service may your family have God's comfort in this trying time. CSM Plumley NCO, Father, Husband, Patriot, American, Role model for many all NCO's should strive to be like him. RIP.

    October 11, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  5. toldUso

    Fare thee well, hero.

    October 11, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Real World Math

    So if you don't approve of someone's profession (killing people) all your comments get deleted? Seriously, CNN?

    October 11, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adam R

      Your disapproval is noted. This is not the time or place to express the extent of your hatred. The article is about a notable figure in this country who passed away. Not about the validity of the Korean or Vietnam War. There are other places to argue those points. There is a reason so many people have so much respect for Basil Plumley. By the way he looks damn fine for a 92 year old, with that kind of mileage.

      October 11, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • richard

      so you don't approve of Police officers either, they sometimes kill, as soldiers do. As an NCO, you do other things. Soldiers, Airmen Sailors and Marines have served over 20 years and never killed anyone and served with honor. I served as a medic and was trained to preserve life, i do not consider myself as choosing a profession that would categorize me as a killer. Did you ever serve? It sounds as if you know nothing of the Profession of Arms. Do you even know anyone in uniform. They are a tool of the civilian government and it is the civilian government leaders that decide when and where troops go. Do not ever disrespect a service member. If you are educated, you should know better.

      October 12, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad

      As they should!

      October 12, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ranger Bob

    A soliders solider. We miss you.

    October 11, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Michael

    RIP Sir and THANK YOU VERY MUCH for your selflessness to The United States of America!

    October 11, 2012 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. john

    Garry Owen Top.

    October 12, 2012 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. contactmatt53

    This should not be a place of argument, of hate or of politics. You can disapprove of a war, but love a warrior. You can disagree with someone else's politics, but can honor those who fight to give you that right. You can even disagree with our country, but can respect a man who for more than 3 decades provide service to his. As American's surely we can be decent enough, for one story, to honor a true hero. I am not a soldier, they along with many other professions in the world are more noble and selfless than mine and I thank CSM Plumley for all he gave me, for all he gave this country. Further I thank all current and future soldiers, policeman, fireman, teachers, social workers and any other out there who spends there time, their life giving to others, trying to make things better for others. We can remain liberal vs. conservative, pro vs. anti-war, whatever divisive group you want to add, but surely as Americans, as humans, we can set that aside for the duration of one posting to simply say...Thank you and nothing more.

    So CSM Plumley...Thank you.

    October 12, 2012 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
    • isisleigh

      Couldn't have said it better myself!

      October 12, 2012 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. irememberitthisway

    I used to be a liberal, but then I grew up, became an adult and left the things of chidhood behind me. Maybe you should try it yourself sometime.

    Fort Benning is my hometown. And yes, I understand what Vietnam was about. I also understand that all of the political garbage that has been written about it doesn't change what CSM Plumley and countless others gave in service to this country.

    All the garbage that has been spewed out in your sad attempts to denigrate these men have no place on this message board, period.

    Like I said, grow up.

    October 12, 2012 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
    • hubert39

      All the wise men and women thoughout history were and are Liberals.

      October 12, 2012 at 5:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Obama Mama

      @Irem- I gues your memory fails you today, most wars were started by conservatives and people of god. I used to be a liberal- I guess you have become a warmongerer. Nice way to grow up.

      October 12, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  12. Hide Behind

    The American people do not owe their freedoms and libertys to the military; Those are owed to a system of governance.
    This dogma and demigoguery of debt has no real bearings of truth except in first our founding. and to an arguable time during WwII.
    While I can and do laud the men who were thrust into harms way by world events and at atime when knowledge of truth about what causes of wars was little understood I find no such excuses for todays military actions and. those who participate in them.

    October 12, 2012 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
    • irememberitthisway

      Are you really that naive as to believe that evil can be stopped by liberal appeasement? Chamberlain tried that and it didn't work then, just as it wouldn't work now.

      October 12, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |

    Democrats fully support racial affirmative action programs in employment and college programs. Think before you vote.

    October 12, 2012 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
    • dave

      You do know that most white people in American history got into college and got jobs on affirmative action - it was called "WE DON'T TAKE COLORED FOLKS'

      GW Bush got into to Yale because his daddy went there, not because he deserved it. Romney got into Harvard because they want sons of governors. There are all kinds of preferences

      October 12, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  14. isisleigh

    CSM Plumley may you rest in peace. You deserve to be commended for your dedicated service to your country. My grandfather was a CSM in the army as well. This rank in case anyone doesn't know is the highest non commissioned officer's rank you can go. Col. and Generals look to the CSM's for advise for battle stratagies. You may have a problem with the Vietnam war or war in general but don't you dare attack the soilders who fought so bravely or gave their lives for their country.

    October 12, 2012 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim P

      I second your comments and praise for persons like CSM Plumley. We have lost a great man who dealt with the harshest conflicts of the 20th century. I wonder how many today can stand up to take his place in conflicts of the future?

      RIP CSM Basil Plumley.

      October 12, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • AceGirlsHusband

      Plumley will enter the Pearly Gates and St Peter will call out, "ROOM, 'Ten-HUT!" CSM Plumley will eye him up and down, and tell him in no uncertain terms, "You don't salute me: I work for a living."

      When Plumley became a Command Sergeant Major, he broke the mold. Good night and good rest, Sergeant Major!

      October 12, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dave

    THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA sent 450 men into a battle against 2000 -- all intelligence sucks and all generals should be shot

    October 12, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • 3rd Infantry Grunt

      If s**t were brains you would be a genius, but it in your case it is still just s**t

      October 12, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
    • FPC

      Do you really think they knew the numbers prior to landing?! DUDE!

      October 12, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • matt

      Dave- you are an idiot.
      I have Master in History and met General Hal Moore and the other author of this book while a light infantry office at Fort Benning and Schoefield Barracks.
      Ia Drang was a meeting engagement, first battalion/regiment sized engagement in Vietnam.
      I lost a cousin there
      Was trained by Vietnam Veterans
      Imposing your knee jerk uniformed ripping of others simply demonstrates your callous ignorance

      October 12, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |

      Common man have you not seen 300 yet?

      October 12, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • AceGirlsHusband

      And that regiment kicked their butts.

      October 12, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19